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Apocalyptic Prophecy in South West Khasi Hills

By Albert Thyrniang

As kids we often argued and literally came to blows with each other over the number 666. Elders who preached in churches linked the number to a revered world leader of a particular denomination. Children picked up the sermons in the church and ridiculed their counterparts of that denomination. The result was that tempers flared in recreational venues.

The bizarre turns of events in South West Khasi Hills recently has brought the number into focus yet again. On 27th February when the whole state lined up in long queues to cast their votes for the Assembly Elections, the voters from villages of Mawsep, Mawthawpdah, Photjaud War, Mawrap and Manad under Mawkyrwat constituency and Ngunraw and Rangjadong under Ranikor constituency refused to vote for fear of the biblical number 666; the number linked to Satan. Reportedly, some voters used sticks and other objects to press the EVM button to avoid direct contact with the EVMs.

In these constituencies, while politicians relentlessly campaigned, overzealous preachers criss-crossed villages to interpret that the biblical number in the Book of Revelation is directly linked to Aadhaar, EPIC and EVMs. They urged people not to vote lest they embrace the number of the Anti-Christ.

Revelation 13: 18 says, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666”. The text clearly says that the number 666 is of a beastly man. It does not say that the number is of a thing. Now, who was this beastly man whose number was 666?

The Book of Revelation was written as a letter for the Christian churches in the then Asia Minor, (present Turkey) which was part of the Roman Empire. Asia Minor was hit by waves of persecutions of Christians by Roman emperors. The prophetic book was written in about 95 A.D by John, a Christian leader of Jewish origin while in exile in the island of Patmos at the time of the Roman emperor Domitian. As the name suggests the book was a record of what was revealed to the author in a vision. The book is an “apocalyptic” writing which means it is a literal form that delivers a message using symbols, images and numbers. The Book of Daniel is another example of apocalyptic style of writing common during the times of persecution.

Many of the symbols and images in Revelation were meant for the Roman emperors, especially Nero. The Roman Emperor (54-68) was infamous for blaming Christians for the fire that raged in Rome for nine consecutive days consuming nearly two-thirds of the city, destroying innumerable buildings, temples, ancient shrines etc. “In short, destroying whatever else was interesting and noteworthy that survived from antiquity”, writes the historian, Suetonius. It is widely believed that Nero killed his own mother and died of suicide.  He threw Christians to dogs, nailed them to crosses in his gardens and burned them alive (the traditional punishment for arson) to serve as living lamps in the night. During Nero’s reign Peter and Paul were executed in Rome. Hence Nero was a villain for the Christians. For Eusebius and Severus he was the “the first that persecuted” Christians. For Tertullian he was “the first emperor who dyed his sword in Christian blood”. Historian, Suetonius sums up thus, “During his reign many abusers were severely punished and put down, and no fewer new laws were made….Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.” Hence he was considered the Anti-christ, some equated him with Satan, the ultimate evil.

As a prisoner, John could not communicate his message in plain language but had to use images, symbols and numbers. To the Roman authorities they were nonsense but Christians, who were familiar with the apocalyptic writings of the Old Testament understood his figurative, metaphorical and symbolic language.

Hence the feared number, 666! Besides the number 6, John used other numbers like 7 in his prophetic book. Found 53 times in the book, the number 7 is significant in the Bible.  7 spirits, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 vials are amongst those mentioned in the Book. Biblically, 7 symbolises the perfection and completeness of God. One short of 7 is 6. So 6 means being short of perfection or wholeness. It therefore, refers to human beings or material things because no one or nothing is perfect and complete except God. It means something flawed in the eyes of God.

In antiquity converting names into numbers (gematria) was  common. For instance The Complete Bible Answer Book—Collector’s Edition says, “In the Lives of the Twelve Caesars Roman historian Suetonius identifies Nero by a numerical designation equal to a nefarious deed. This numerical equality (isopsephism) is encapsulated in the phrase: Count the numerical values of the letters in Nero’s name, and in ‘murdered his own mother’ and you will find their sum is the same.” In Greek the numerical value of the letters in Nero’s name (Greek: Nevrwn, English transliteration: Neron) totaled 1,005, as did the numbers in the phrase murdered his own mother. This ancient numerical cryptogram reflected the widespread knowledge that Nero had killed his own mother”.

In Greek “Nero Caesar” totals 1,005 but when put into Hebrew letters “Nero Caesar”, that is, NRON QSRN the value of the letters adds up to 666.In the Hebrew “Nero Caesar” is spelled as נרוןקסר or NRON QSR in English (Hebrew does not have vowels). The numbers represented will be 50+200 +6 +50 +100 +60 +200 equals 666.  Most scholars agree that the numerical interpretation of 666 is the equivalent of the name and title, Nero Caesar. They believe that the number 666 refers specifically to emperor Nero because of his cruel and ruthless persecutions of Christians besides his wicked nature in general. 

This number is the most controversial, enigmatic and mysterious number today but it was not so in the early days of Christianity. It is clear therefore that the author of the book of Revelation provided specific clues about the meaning of 666 in the passage itself. The number is a definite product of a numerical calculation which an alert reader could easily arrive at. More importantly, it stands for a specific historical figure. So where is the sinister meaning to the number 666? It is just a number precedes 665 and follows 667.

Over enthusiastic preachers have assigned the number 666 liberally to whomever and whatever suited them. This goes on even today. That was what happened in South West Khasi Hills and elsewhere. The preachers were dead sure that Aadhaar, EPIC and EVMs were directly linked to the number 666. Aadhaar, EPIC or EVMs might be imperfect but to equate them with the biblical number 666 is absurd. It is a case of superstition. The preachers created a fear psychosis in the minds of the people. They took advantage of the gullible, ignorant and perhaps illiterate population. Preachers are to enlighten their followers and remove ignorance, superstitions, falsehood and even blind faith. Unfortunately the preachers we refer to here are perpetuating untruth! An enquiry must be instituted. If found guilty they must they must face exemplary punishment.

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